How To Get Rid Of Tinea Versicolor

What Is Tinea Versicolor

Tinea versicolor is a common fungal infection that results in discolored skin. Individuals with tinea versicolor develop white, yellow, red, pink, or brown spots. This condition is caused by an overgrowth of a type of yeast (fungus) naturally found on the skin. Factors such as hot weather, humidity, and sun exposure can exacerbate tinea versicolor symptoms. While it’s not harmful or contagious, it can cause mild itching. Tinea versicolor typically affects areas such as the shoulders, back, and upper chest.

Healthcare providers typically treat the condition with topical or oral antifungal medications. Some treatments are available over-the-counter. With proper treatment, most individuals fully recover from tinea versicolor. Also known as pityriasis versicolor, this condition is manageable with appropriate medical intervention.

Tinea Versicolor
Tinea Versicolor

What Does Tinea Versicolor Look Like?Tinea Versicolor Symptoms

Tinea versicolor can manifest differently across various skin tones. The fungal overgrowth leads to the development of small, round patches of skin that either lighten or darken compared to the surrounding skin. Typically, skin lightening is more common. These patches can appear as white, pink, red, brown, light tan, or yellow. On darker skin tones, tinea versicolor presents as white or light tan patches, while on lighter or paler skin tones, it appears as light red or pink.

Some patches or spots may become scaly and dry. Over time, these patches enlarge and may begin to merge, covering larger areas of the skin.

The patches may become more noticeable after sun exposure, as the surrounding skin tans or darkens, while the infected area does not, making it stand out more prominently.

What Cause Tinea Versicolor

Tinea versicolor is caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the skin’s surface. This yeast flourishes in warm, moist, and oily environments, leading to its excessive growth in small colonies, which in turn causes the symptoms of tinea versicolor.

Several factors can trigger the yeast to proliferate:

  1. Hormonal changes.
  2. Weakened immune system.
  3. Hot, humid weather.
  4. Sweating.
  5. Oily skin.

How to Treat Tinea Versicolor

Tinea versicolor can be a nuisance, but it’s generally easy to treat. Treatment typically involves topical creams, lotions, or shampoos applied to the skin. For more severe or widespread cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe oral medications. These medicines contain antifungals to kill the fungus or inhibit its growth. Proper treatment with antifungal medication is necessary to ensure complete recovery and prevent recurrences.

Over-the-counter antifungal medications:

  • Clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF®)
  • Miconazole (Micaderm®)
  • Selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue® shampoo)
  • Terbinafine (Lamisil AT®)
  • Zinc pyrithione soap

Prescription antifungal medications:


  • Ketoconazole (Nizoral® or Extina®)
  • Ciclopirox (Loprox® or Penlac®)

Oral (for severe symptoms):

  • Fluconazole (Diflucan®)
  • Itraconazole (Onmel® or Sporanox®)

How Can I Treat Tinea Versicolor At Home

There are several options for treating tinea versicolor at home. The most common and economical option is using a dandruff shampoo containing selenium. Apply the shampoo to your skin in the shower and let it sit for several minutes before rinsing. Additionally, there are several over-the-counter options available. Use these medications as directed. If you don’t notice changes after several weeks, contact your healthcare provider, as a stronger medication may be needed.

Healthcare providers generally don’t recommend most natural or at-home remedies because their effects aren’t well studied.

How to Prevent Tinea Versicolor

The yeast that causes this infection occurs naturally on your skin. Healthcare providers aren’t sure why some people develop tinea versicolor and others don’t.

If you have a history of tinea versicolor, your healthcare provider may recommend using soap containing zinc pyrithione (such as Vanicream™ Z-Bar or DermaZinc™ Zinc Therapy Soap), ketoconazole (Nizoral®), or selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue®). This type of soap may help prevent future infections and yeast overgrowth. Your healthcare provider may also recommend using prescription medications during the summer months when tinea versicolor is more likely to return.

Some other things you can do to lower your risk for repeat tinea versicolor infections include:

Avoiding excessive sweating, exposure to sunlight, and heat. Wearing sunscreen or avoiding sun exposure. Wearing loose-fitting, cotton clothing to reduce sweating.

What are the risk factors for developing tinea versicolor? You may be at a higher risk for tinea versicolor if you live in a hot, tropical climate or if you’re a young adult. This is because younger adults experience changing hormones and increased oil production, both of which can contribute to tinea versicolor.

FAQ About Tinea Versicolor

Is Tinea Versicolor Common In Pregnancy?

Yes, tinea versicolor is more common during pregnancy due to hormonal changes and a weakened immune system.

When Should I Call The Doctor?

You can treat tinea versicolor with antifungal medicine from the drug or grocery store. This can clear up mild cases of tinea versicolor within a few weeks. Topical antifungal creams, shampoos or lotions work best when they soak into your skin for several minutes a day.

Contact your healthcare provider if you don’t see improvement after using topical antifungal creams, shampoos, or lotions daily for two to three weeks. They may want to prescribe a more effective medication.

What Is The Difference Between Tinea Versicolor And Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a skin condition that causes light spots on your skin, often mistaken for tinea versicolor. There are some differences between the two conditions. The spots caused by vitiligo are smooth, while tinea versicolor spots can have a scaly texture. Vitiligo also tends to affect different areas from tinea versicolor; it’s likely to appear on your face, eyes, mouth, fingers, and hands. An autoimmune condition causes vitiligo, while a fungal infection causes tinea versicolor.

Tinea versicolor can be a nuisance and make you feel insecure. Luckily, the discoloration it creates on your skin is highly treatable with over-the-counter antifungal creams or shampoos. Using them daily for several weeks can help you manage the infection. Your healthcare provider can also prescribe stronger antifungal medications for more severe tinea versicolor or recurring infections. Talk to your healthcare provider about any questions you have about tinea versicolor; they’re there to help you and get you feeling more confident in your skin again.


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